CONTROVERSIAL plans to close railway ticket offices have been backed by Tory councillors despite calls for a rethink by Labour.

Lee Watson, Labour councillor for West Thurrock and South Stifford, tabled a motion at a Thurrock Council meeting calling on the Government to reconsider plans to close up to 1,000 staffed ticket offices in England.                   

A statutory public consultation, launched by the Rail Delivery Group, has been extended to September 1, despite being due to close on Wednesday, after outcry following its launch in July.

Presenting her motion on Wednesday, Ms Watson said: “Thurrock Council believes that ticket offices provide a vital service to residents using the stations at Stanford le Hope, Ockendon, Purfleet, Tilbury and East Tilbury and support passenger safety, security and accessibility. Having a central place in the station for people requiring advice and assistance provides certainty and confidence for customers who may struggle to otherwise locate station staff and also acts as a point of safety for passengers.

“At many stations, access to facilities such as toilets and waiting rooms is reliant on ticket office staff. Thurrock Council is concerned the closure of ticket offices will disproportionately affect disabled, deaf and older residents in Thurrock, as well as those with poor literacy and IT skills or on lower incomes.”

Ms Watson said station staff could also lose their jobs and called on the council’s chief executive to write to the secretary of state for transport and rail operator c2c expressing opposition to the closures.

Tories called for an amendment to the motion supporting consideration of the impact of the changes on the vulnerable but recognising the falling numbers of passengers who use ticket offices. The amendment also asked for recognition that moving staff out of ticket offices and onto platforms and public areas could "enhance customer help roles".

It was stated the planning, transport and regeneration overview and scrutiny committee should assess the impact of ticket office staff, only writing to the secretary of state if necessary.

Tabling the amendment, Ben Maney, councillor responsible for regeneration and highways, said: “We should not close our minds to the facts or the benefits that could arise from the proposals. The fact is the way people purchase tickets has changed dramatically. In 2022/23 around one in ten transactions occurred at a ticket office down from one in three just a decade early and this now equates to 13 per cent of total revenue.

“Passengers are increasingly opting to use more convenient means of purchasing tickets, including online via apps or vending machines.”                         

Mr Watson's motion was defeated by 24-19 with five abstentions. Mr Maney's amended motion was then agreed unanimously.